Candy Apple Chambord Martini a real treat

Candied apple cocktail

Give the grown-ups a treat this Halloween.

While the kids fill their loot bags and bob for apples, the big kids get their own nostalgic treat - a candy apple martini.

Chambord Candy Apple Martini

1 oz Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur
1 oz Finlandia Vodka
3/4 oz apple schnapps

Splash of Tuaca Liqueur

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a martini
glass. Rim the glass with caramel and garnish with an apple slice.

'True Blood' inspired Halloween cocktail

A truly ghoulish and delicious Vampire Kiss

I vant to drink your blood. But good manners suggest settling for a potent cocktail of another kind.

True Blood's Sookie Stackhouse might offer her undead guests a little Vampire Kiss to take the edge off the evening on Halloween. 

This berry-flavored sparkling Martini made with Finlandia vodka, Chambord and Korbel Champagne makes for a ghoulish good time for guests.

Vampire Kiss Martini

Serves one

1 ½ oz. Finlandia Vodka, chilled
1 ½ oz Korbel Champagne
¾ oz part Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur

Rim an oversized chilled Martini glass with red sugar (use food coloring to mix your own) or drop in a set of wax vampire teeth for a real surprise.

Pour vodka and half of the Chambord in the Martini glass, top with Champagne and pour the remaining Chambord over the back of a spoon to make it float.

Egg in the Nest or Toad in the Hole

One good egg

Growing up we called this breakfast treat Egg in the Nest. You might know it as Toad in the Hole.By either name, it's delicious and easy to make. 

Kids and kids at heart love it.  

The Culinary Institute of America Cookbook has a recipe for this breakfast classic that includes Red Pepper Ketchup.

Toad in the Hole with Red Pepper Ketchup

Serves 8


16 slices sourdough bread, about 3/4 inch thick

1 cup melted butter or as needed

16 eggs

2 teaspoons salt or to taste

1 teaspoon black pepper or to taste

1 cup Red Pepper Ketchup (recipe below)

Cut holes in each slice of bread with a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter. Be sure not to get too close to the edge of the bread. Brush both sides of each slice of bread with the melted butter.

Heat a griddle to medium heat (the CIA cookbook calls for a gas grill or charcoal grill but for indoors I suggest a griddle, either electric or stove top). Griddle the bread on one side until golden brown' about 1-2 minutes. Flip each piece of bread over and crack one egg into the hole in each piece of bread.

Season the eggs with salt and pepper. Fry the eggs about 2 minutes for sunny-side-up, 3 minutes for medium yolks and 3 1/2 to 4 minutes for hard yolks. Flip the bread over, being careful not to break the yolk, and cook for 30 seconds more, if desired.

Serve immediately with the Red Pepper Ketchup on top or on the side.

Red Pepper Ketchup

Makes 2 cups


1/4 cup olive oil

5 red peppers, diced

2 tablespoons minced shallots

3/4 cups dry white wine

3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the peppers and shallots and saute until tender, about 5 to six minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine, making sure to scrape up anything that is stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Bread baking: how to make whole wheat bread

Four beautifully browned loaves

Fresh baked bread is tradition in most of the world's cultures. Busy cooks often rely on store-baked goods to fill the gap, but if one is willing to make the effort, home baked is best.

Preparing the dough

When I was growing up, we rarely had a loaf of bread from the grocery store. Forget Wonder Bread! As a teenager, my Mom taught me to bake yeast breads and it's a skill I am really grateful to have acquired.

Baking bread is not the daunting project many novice cooks expect. Baking successfully does require time, attention to detail, and patience.

This recipe is a favorite from a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook published in 1963 (probably long out of print) which my Mom still uses and I hope to inherit. Today we baked four loaves of whole wheat bread, filling the house with wonderful aromas.

Dough ready for shaping

Whole Wheat Bread

Makes 2 loaves


1 package active dry yeast or 1 cake compressed yeast

1/4 cup water

2 1/2 cups hot water

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 teaspoons salt

1 stick butter

3 cups stirred whole wheat flower

5 cups sifted all purpose white flour


Soften active dry yeast in 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F) or compressed yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water (85 degrees F). Use a cooking thermometer to ensure proper temperature.

Combine in a separate large mixing bowl hot water, sugar, salt and shortening. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

Shaping and rolling the loaves

Stir in the whole wheat flour and one cup of the white flour and beat well. Stir in the softened yeast, then add enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough. 

Turn out on a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and satiny (10-12 minutes).

Shape dough into a ball, then place in a lightly buttered bowl - turning once to coat the surface. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

After the dough has risen, punch down. Then cut into two equal portions, shaping each into a smooth ball.  Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

Browning up the loaves

To shape into loaves, roll out each portion of dough into a rectangle to smooth out air bubbles. Then roll each piece of dough up, pinching slightly while rolling up the loaf.  Pinch the ends under, then place loaves into greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 1 1/4 hours until loaves have doubled.

Bake in a moderate oven (375 degrees F) about 45 minutes, covering with tin foil the last 20 minutes.

The basics of crafting and testing recipes


The dreaded cauliflower

The other night I was faced with a cauliflower, a vegetable I'm deadlocked with in a love-hate relationship. 

When my love affair with this rather bland kin to the cabbage began, we enjoyed an extended honeymoon phase when I was also learning to make curries, for which the cauliflower is well suited.  But once I'd mastered curry, I was bored to tears by cauliflower. 

But since I'm not the only palate to be pleased in my house, a cauliflower pops up in the shopping basket every so often.

Deciding what to do with ingredients on hand is a challenge for both chefs and home cooks.  We don't always get what we want, but we have to make do with what we have.

Invention is a good thing at times like these and if luck (and skill) are with you, then a great dish makes it to the table.

But who among us never fails in the kitchen?  That's how we learn and that's how we become better cooks.

The same is true for crafting and testing a recipe. 

To cook the dreaded cauliflower, I decided to keep the flavor of a curry but add the texture of a gratin.  And it almost worked. 

I got the gratin down perfectly, but I missed the mark on the curry because I didn't have a key ingredient - coconut milk.  I also would have been better off pureeing the vegetable for a silkier, smoother finished dish.

Everyone in my immediate family, but me, enjoyed the curried cauliflower gratin. I was too busy critiquing the lack of flavor and texture. I could take this as a success and move on, but the truth is I'd never serve this curried cauliflower gratin at a party or take it to a potluck as is.

I had to make it work to feel satisfied.

In my beginning writing classes, I usually teach students the technique of process by asking them to write a paper which details the steps of how to do something. Invariably, a few students will choose to write a paper based on a recipe.

It's a good thing we don't actually try to make and eat these recipes! 

My beginning writers leave out key ingredients or steps, assuming their readers know what to do. There is a natural assumption that people have a basic level of understanding when it comes to cooking. However, we shouldn't assume too much because we don't know who will be recreating our recipe.

Anyone who cooks or bakes knows the disasters that can result with a poorly written recipe.

Writing a recipe is craft. Testing a recipe is essential. 

The basics

  • Always give estimated times for preparation and cooking.
  • Always give temperatures necessary for baking, broiling, frying, etc.
  • Provide a range of cooking times where appropriate, ie., Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean..
  • Ingredients should be listed in order of use. All listed ingredients should be used.
  • Ingredient amounts, types and preparation, ie. minced, grated, etc., should be specific.
  • Don't abbreviate  measurements.
  • Technique should be written in concise, detailed steps in the proper order for preparation.
  • Use common cook's measurements such as 1 cup, etc., and give exact pan sizes.
  • Don't assume readers understand all cooking terms. Define terms like dredge or reduce.
  • if you adapt a recipe from a cookbook or magazine, give credit to your source.
Once a recipe is written, you need to execute the recipe, making note of the overall process as well as the finished result in order to fine tune or revise the original recipe. 

Depending on the complexity of your recipe, this process may take several executions before a final version is achieved. While this step may seem time-consuming, it is crucial to the process.

Low Country Boil highlight of Eagle Island Getaway

Eagle Island is where I want to be right about now

It's officially autumn, but the Southeast is the perfect place to head when you just have to squeeze in one last getaway before the weather turns cold and recalcitrant.

If you've only experienced Hilton Head or Kiawah Island off the South Carolina coast, look a little deeper South for an experience more rustic, more authentic and definitely more relaxed - the Private Islands of Georgia's Eagle Island.

Whether you're looking to disappear with someone special or with a group of friends, this secluded 10-acre getaway is a find. Getaways can be customized.

Accessible only by boat, guests enjoy the spectacular Georgia salt marsh eco system, offshore/inshore fishing, blue crabbing, coastal cruises or full moon weekends in complete privacy. A 10-foot wraparound screened porch with hot tub and an outdoor fire pit are perfect for idling.

For those who can't leave their technology behind, there is WiFi and Direct TV. Rates start at $400 per couple per night. Round-trip boat transportation is provided with each visit.

Get owner Capt. Andy Hill to put on a low country boil for the end to a long and perfect autumn day on the coast. Wild Georgia shrimp, Andouille sausage, carrots, potatoes and corn make for some good Southern eating. Serve with deep dish corn bread and a few cold bottles of Reisling.

Low country boil is a fantastic fall meal

Low Country Boil

You don't have to be in the low country to enjoy this seasonal Southern shore specialty.

Note - outdoor gas cookers are typically used. A large pot on the range can also be used when outdoor gas cookers are not available. 

Fill a large pot with water. Leave enough room in the pot to accommodate the food in order to prevent over boiling. Bring water to a boil.

Next, prepare the Private Islands of Georgia Seasoning Blend (recipe below) and add to boiling water.

Note - Old Bay Seasoning can be substituted for the Private Islands of Georgia Seasoning Blend if desired

Private Islands of Georgia SPECIAL Seasoning Blend


2 sticks butter

1 cup black pepper

1/2 cup red pepper

1 cup garlic salt

1/2 cup seasoning salt

1/2 cup celery salt

10 lemons, halved and juiced

10 jalapeno peppers, seeded and thinly sliced

Melt butter in large sauce pan on low to medium heat.

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir with wire whisk. Pour contents of mixing bowl into melted butter and stir with wire whisk until well blended.

Pour fresh squeezed lemon juice into pan and stir. Add jalapeno pepper slices and stir. Add mixture to boiling water.

Low Country Boil  Ingredients

Note - other ingredients that can be added to personal taste are rutabagas, sweet potatoes, crabs, crawfish or the 'kitchen sink' - whatever textures and flavors you love

4 pounds shrimp

2 packages Andouille sausage cut into 1" slices - or substitute your favorite brand

8 onions, peeled and halved

16 new potatoes

4 ears of corn, halved

small bag of baby carrots

After adding the Private Islands of Georgia Seasoning Blend to the boiling water, you are now ready to add the remaining ingredients.

The food items are added in order of longest to shortest to cook.

First, add the potatoes and boil 10 minutes. Next, add the carrots, sausage and whole onions. Return to boil. Add corn and return to boil. Then, add the shrimp last. Cook until shrimp are pink in color, approximately 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp.

Have on hand extras like cocktail sauce, lemon wedges and don't forget plenty of napkins.

Triple chocolate-cookie trifle cake easy to make

This no-bake cake is so-good and so-easy

There is nothing I like better than a delicious dessert which looks fabulous and makes me look like a kitchen genie. 

I don't know about you, but I love looking like I slaved over a dessert when really I barely spent an hour mixing and stirring and molding. 

This is that cake.  It's gorgeous. Anyone - no matter your expertise in the kitchen - can make this creamy, dreamy dessert.

The Triple Chocolate-Cookie Trifle Cake is a keeper.

Key ingredients

Adapted from a recipe in Southern Living.

Yield Makes 10 to 12 servings

Triple Chocolate-Cookie Trifle Cake


* 4 cups heavy cream, divided

* 1 1/2 (4-oz) bittersweet chocolate baking bars, chopped

* 1 (4-oz) white chocolate baking bar, chopped

* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* 1 (12.5-oz) package assorted Pepperidge Farm cookies

* 1 (18-oz) package Oreo cookies

Crushed Oreo cookie crust

* 2 tablespoons Kahlua  (optional)

* 1 (6-oz) container fresh raspberries


Let cream come to room temperature before preparing the cake's filling.

Microwave 1/2 cup cream at HIGH 30 seconds to 1 minute or until hot (do not boil). Place bittersweet chocolate in a large bowl. Pour hot cream over chocolate, and stir until smooth.

Repeat procedure with 1/4 cup cream and white chocolate.

If chocolate does not melt completely after stirring, microwave at HIGH for 10-second intervals until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Melting white chocolate for the cake filling

Stir 1/2 tsp. vanilla into each chocolate mixture until well blended. 

Beat remaining cream at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until medium peaks form. Gently fold one-half of whipped cream into cool bittersweet chocolate mixture. Fold remaining whipped cream into cool white chocolate mixture.

In food processor, crush half the package of Oreos. Sprinkle crushed cookies on the bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch springform pan, then spread half of bittersweet chocolate mixture over the crushed cookies. Arrange Pepperidge Farm cookies around sides of pan (about 19 cookies). Note: You might wish to buy an extra package of cookies in case of damage or breakage. 

Process the remaining Oreos and spread over the bittersweet chocolate, then spread the white chocolate

Mixing up the chocolate cream filling

mixture over this layer. Drizzle with liqueur, if desired.

Spread the remaining bittersweet chocolate mixture over the crushed cookies.Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours.

Remove sides from pan. Mound raspberries in center of trifle. Raspberries may be brushed with a glaze.

Raspberry Glaze: Combine 3 Tbsp. seedless raspberry jam and 2 tsp. water in a small glass bowl. Microwave at HIGH 10 to 15 seconds or until smooth.

Creating the cookie crust

Layering the chocolate cream filling.


Ready to chill for 8-24 hours.

Unmolding the finished product

Finished Triple Chocolate Cookie Trifle Cake

Saturday night eat-in: Pernil asado or roast pork with spicy saffron rice

Comfort food for the homesick NYer

Since we've moved to North Carolina, I've been craving Latin food.

There's a large Hispanic community here, but (despite the welcome sight of a Taco Truck) I've yet to find cocina casero like you find on every street corner in NYC.

When you're handed a big bag of lemons, you start making lemonade. 

So, this week's recipe for Saturday night eat-in is a quick and dirty version of pernil asado. Click here to see video instructions for another version.

Pair this meal with a youthful and fresh Portuguese Vinho Verde.

Leftovers can be used to make super delicious Cubanos, meaty and magnificent heroes made with roast pork, ham, swiss cheese and dill pickles on Cuban rolls.

Mighty good eating, I say.




Yummy pork deliciousness

* 2 teaspoons ground cumin

 * 4 cloves garlic, chopped

* 1 teaspoon salt

* 1 teaspoon dried oregano

* 1/2 cup orange juice

* 1/2 cup dry sherry

* whole fresh lime, juiced

* zest of  fresh lime

* 1 tbs cilantro, chopped

4 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and tied


Mix all marinade ingredients in a glass or non-reactive metal mixing  bowl. Place the pork in a large resealable plastic bag and then pour citrus marinade over meat, and seal.

Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning the bag over occasionally to thoroughly marinate the pork roast.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Transfer pork and marinade to a roasting pan, and place in the oven.  Roast uncovered for half an hour, then cover and continue to oast for about an hour and 45 minutes, basting with pan juices occasionally, or until an instant read thermometer inserted in the center reads 145 degrees F (63 degrees C).

Add small amounts of water to the pan if it dries out.

Roast uncovered to crisp the pork roast, then transfer the pork to a carving board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

For quick and easy sides, serve with Mahatma spicy saffron rice and seasoned pinto beans.

Serves 8-10.

It's sauce season: ragu di carne

A big pot of simmering sauce

If the temperature dips even slightly below 70 at night, Iam ready to rattle my pots and pans to make hearty meat sauces and soups. It's not that I don't make sauces and soups in the warmer months, it's simply that there is something idyllic for me about simmering a large pot of sauce or soup on a long, cool afternoon or evenig.

Yesterday I made a ragu di carne in the Bolognese tradition. This meat sauce originates in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. It is both familiar and comforting, and can be served with pasta - fresh or dry - as well as polenta and gnocchi. 

Variations of this sauce may be made with prosciutto, porcini or chicken livers.

Ragu di carneKey ingredients

3 oz pancetta

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 stalk celery

1 small carrot

1 small onion

l/2 lb. ground beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1 tbs Italian seasoning mix (I bought mine in the Campo dei Fiori, but you can find yours at any well-stocked grocer or make your own.)

1/4 teas red pepper flakes

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cup broth

1/2 oz butter

1 tbs tomato paste

1 32-ounce can crushed tomatoes (or 4-6 large peeled & seeded tomatoes)



Prepare a battuto (finely chopped herb mixture traditionally using a mezzaluna) with pancetta, celery, carrot and onion. Melt butter in a saucepan, add the battuto and the ground meats, brown well, then add the wine and half the broth as well as the Italian seasoning mix and red pepper flakes.

Continue to cook until the liquids are reduced, then add the remaining broth. Reduce again, then add the crushed tomatoes or peeled and seeded tomatoes as well as the tomato paste, and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

Cover saucepan and let cook over a medium heat for at least 2 hours. Add the cream, and correct salt and pepper to taste. The sauce is ready to serve over fresh or stuffed pasta.